Employees' inability at the last minute to work a scheduled shift might have restaurateurs graying prematurely, but there are ways to avoid being short-staffed. The benefits can extend beyond sparing the employees who do show on time from being over-taxed. After adopting several policies to avert last-minute call-offs, Soulman’s Bar-B-Que also saw 30% less turnover across its system of 15 units in Texas.
Here’s how Soulman’s and other restaurants have tried to avert last-minute cancellations.
1. Be upfront
After 38 years in the restaurant industry, Soulman’s COO Randall McGee says he’s learned to let recruits know about scheduling practices early in the interview process. McGee has mandated that hiring managers explain the policies in the first interview. The chain also posts its schedules a week in advance to give employees enough time to make changes. “The biggest thing we have found is to always have open lines of communication,” he says. “We understand that things are going to happen, so we let them know that we are flexible if they give us notice.”
2. Invest in tools
P.J.W. Restaurant Group in Pennsylvania uses scheduling software that allows employees to quickly swap shifts with real-time manager approval. “It’s helped reduce the stress on opening managers, because they know what’s going on,” says Chris Webb, director of operations for the group. Webb says that the app helps workers take charge of their own schedules, especially younger employees and those that may otherwise be too timid to ask for scheduling changes. “Flexibility is the key to managing millennials,” he says.
3. Make a list
Soulman’s staff members are required to phone three hours ahead of their shifts if they cannot make it in to work. That gives managers enough time to fill the shifts with a list of employees who want extra hours. The list is updated every two weeks to maintain a current catalog. “It helps prevent that scramble,” McGee says.
4. Cut free rounds
Creating a healthier environment for employees has led to fewer sick days at Raven & Rose in Portland, Ore. The gastropub used to offer workers a shift drink as a perk and a way to strengthen employee bonds and build retention. But instead of stopping at one drink, employees would often bar hop and nurse a hangover in the morning. “Once we cut the shift drink policy, we saw an immediate change in the behavior and overall health of the staff,” says Beverage Director David Shenaut. “The ones that needed that beer after every shift have moved on, and the employees that were on the fence decided to go home after work and came back the next day well-rested.”
7. Pool tips
Pooling tips has helped Raven & Rose create a team-driven environment and correct the issue of calling in last minute, Shenaut says. “Front-of-house employees feel pressure from their peers to show up ready to get it done,” he says.